Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Cutting-Edge Technology: More Than a Bread Knife

Pollinating wheat in the Kansas Wheat Innovation Center greenhouse. You can see construction on the west side of the K-State football stadium from the windows of the greenhouse.
Though the ribbon cutting for the Kansas Wheat Innovation Center (KWIC) involved a bread knife, it's not the only "cutting-edge" activity going on there.

I understand bread knives. I don't understand doubled haploids. And that's OK. That's why we Kansas wheat farmers have people working at KWIC who do understand complicated "stuff" like doubled haploids.

Wheat has been a basis of the human diet for thousands of years. Bread in one form or another is a basic food source all over the world. It seems simple - flour, water, yeast and a few assorted other ingredients.

But wheat is actually a very complex plant. A typical wheat variety is hexaploid: It has six copies of each gene, where most living things have two. Its 21 chromosomes contain a massive 16 billion base pairs of DNA, 40 times as much as rice, six times as much as maize and five times as much as people.

Mapping the wheat genome is complicated business because wheat is a complicated plant. It's one reason that work in wheat genetics has lagged behind other cereal grains. But KWIC will offer opportunities for researchers to learn more and put that knowledge to use.
Different stages of growth in grow rooms at KWIC
KWIC houses Heartland Plant Innovations, which is a farmer-owned plant science company created by the Kansas Association of Wheat Growers. HPI leases laboratory and greenhouse space in the KWIC to conduct their research on doubled haploids, which are genetically pure plant lines. Using doubled haploids cuts 4 to 6 years out of the normal 12-year development time for new wheat varieties that promise higher yields, disease resistance, drought resistance and other crop improvements.
When you visit a wheat research center, you may not expect to see corn plants growing in the greenhouse. But researchers are using corn to pollinate wheat and then are extracting the embryos. I don't understand much more than that. Let's get real: I don't understand that either.
Wheat plants are in the foreground, with corn plants at different stages of maturity growing in the background of the same greenhouse.
Soon, KWIC will be the home for a gene bank which will store genetics from the Wheat Genetics Resource Center at K-State. Since 1984, the WGRC has led a global effort in conserving and researching more than two dozen wild wheat and goatgrass species, including more than 12,000 strains. More than 30,000 samples from the collection of wild wheat relatives, genetic stocks and improved genetic resources have been distributed to scientists in 45 countries and 39 U.S. states.
Randy looks into a growth chamber which was sponsored by KFRM 550 AM radio. KFRM is the station for whom I do freelance reporting, giving a Central Kansas report Monday through Friday.
The process is complicated. That's why I was somewhat amused by one of the researchers' low-tech solutions on one table in the greenhouse. Yes, Styrofoam cups cover some of the smaller wheat plants. I didn't ask why.
Whether high tech (like doubled haploids) or low tech like Styrofoam cups, the work is important - not only for producers but also for the people of the world. By 2050, the world population will reach 9 billion. Improving today's wheat varieties will help meet the needs of a hungry and growing world.

While I don't understand doubled haploids, I do understand feeding hungry people. The KWIC also has a test kitchen, where Kansas Wheat and friends just finished testing recipes and selecting finalists for the National Festival of Breads, coming to Manhattan, June 20-22. You can come to Manhattan and watch them bake on June 22. Check out this recipe from the 2011 winner. The NFOB website has recipes from other winners and finalists.
The flour sponsor for the National Festival of Breads is King Arthur. But I had to take a photo of the "hometown" Hudson Cream Flour in the KWIC test kitchen, made by our Stafford County neighbors in Hudson.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Bread of Life: Kansas Wheat Innovation Center

An 8-foot-long "ribbon" of braided bread was the centerpiece for the dedication for the Kansas Wheat Innovation Center in Manhattan last Friday.

Basic bread is a pretty straightforward recipe: You combine flour, water, yeast and a few other ingredients.  When flour is mixed with water, the gluten swells to form a continuous network of fine strands. This network forms the structure of bread dough and makes it elastic and pliable.

Last Friday, the Kansas Wheat Innovation Center celebrated a new network and structure as it officially opened a new $10.3 million building. Just like gluten coming together in a series of fine strands, Kansas wheat farmers came together to invest in their future. The Kansas Wheat Innovation Center building has at its center the collaboration of Kansas wheat farmers - those strands of cooperation coming from each corner of the state. Through a voluntary penny-and-a-half Kansas wheat checkoff,  the Center was built to begin a new era for wheat variety research. It represents the single largest investment by wheat farmers in the nation. The Center was built on land owned by Kansas State University, but the Kansas Wheat Commission has a 50-year lease on the property.
The loaf of bread used on Friday was braided together. It was baked in one continuous piece in a large oven at the American Institute of Baking, also in Manhattan. Just like that braid strengthened the structure of the completed loaf, other collaborators have joined Kansas farmers in this endeavor to improve wheat and find new ways to feed a hungry world. On Friday, naming rights donors were recognized. The donors were many and varied: They included banks, insurance companies, a railroad, seed companies, agriculture cooperatives, media outlets, ag families and others.

In his remarks, Kansas Wheat Commissioner Ron Suppes, Dighton, held up a grain of wheat. If you were more than two rows back, you couldn't see the kernel. But, in some ways, that's the point. This little, bitty seed is pretty powerful. From a tiny little kernel, a wheat plant grows. With the right combination of soil, water, sunlight, temperature and time, the one kernel produces a plant with a lot of kernels.
When those kernels are harvested, they can help feed the world. That's a lot of power for one little seed.

And the Kansas Wheat Innovation Center represents a lot of power for the Kansas wheat industry, too.
“We are excited to share the story of how the Kansas Wheat Innovation Center will lead the way in new wheat research that gives Kansas wheat farmers the tools to produce high-yielding, high-quality wheat varieties that will continue to feed the world. The world population is expected to reach 9 billion people by 2050. The KWIC will play a big role in helping U.S. wheat farmers meet the population’s growing demand for food.”
Rich Randall
chairman of the Kansas Wheat Commission and farmer near Scott City
Tomorrow, more photos and more on the work that will be done at the Kansas Wheat Innovation Center. 

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Nine Lives?

It's not only our cats that need nine lives this spring. After another shot of freezing weather, our 2013 wheat crop is on its fourth or fifth life - at least.
It kind of looked like a slushy machine had erupted in the wheat fields again on Tuesday morning. We brought the rain gauge into the house for a thaw and discovered another 0.65" of moisture After two summers of drought, we're thankful for any moisture, though it would be better in liquid - rather than solid - form at this time of year. 
As one of my friends says, "The photos would be beautiful if it didn't mean more question marks for the wheat crop." Even prior to this latest blast of winter weather, my brother, Kent, said there was definite stem damage to the wheat in Pratt County, and he thinks there was damage to the head as well.

This latest storm caused a dramatic temperature drop. On April 23 at 5:30 PM, the temperature was 38.6 degrees colder than it had been a 5:30 PM on April 22. The thermometer hovered around freezing all day long on Tuesday. Then, Wednesday morning, the temperature was even lower - around 22 degrees here. The experts say that temperatures in the lower 20s at this stage of the game usually spells trouble for the wheat plant.

It will take several days for the full effect of the freeze to be determined. As usual, Randy is withholding judgment. Another scouting adventure will likely be in our future early next week. See what I mean about the 2013 wheat crop needing nine lives?

I loved this note from our Stafford County Extension Agent:
I think the real take-home message is this: Let's get some good growing weather in the next few days and see what happens. The books all say that our wheat should be dead with the temps we had last night.  Luckily, wheat can't read.  So we will need to wait 4 to 7 days for the plant to tell us what the outcome (of the freeze) will be.
Glenn Newdigger, Stafford County Extension

Tiptoeing through the tulips near the front steps also meant crunching through a layer of ice. They are just the latest variety of spring flowers to bravely bloom during this schizophrenic weather and end up in the icebox.
 Spring seems to think it's Halloween and has disguised herself as Old Man Winter.
Let's hope these are my last icicle photos until next December. But I am past the point of predicting that.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Going Bananas for Quick Bread

I go bananas for a good quick bread recipe. And, if it just happens to use up some of the bananas I always seem to have hanging around on the kitchen counter, that's a bonus.

I adapted the recipe for this Coconut Banana Bread recipe from Wichita blogger Ashley's Kitchen Meets Girl. (She likes quick breads about as much as I do.) I took it to Jill's and Eric's house when we visited a couple of weeks ago, and it got good reviews from everyone but Kinley. (She preferred the Blueberry White Chocolate Crunch Bread. I guess she likes her fruit in discernible form.)

But if you're as tired of this schizophrenic Kansas weather as I am, maybe this bread will conjure up images of the tropics with its banana, coconut and lime flavor combination. It's worth a try after another morning of hard freeze, isn't it?

Coconut Banana Bread
2 cups flour
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups mashed ripe bananas
1/4 cup sour cream
3 tbsp. milk
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup coconut

1 1/2 tbsp. fresh lime juice
2 tbsp. butter
1 cup powdered sugar
Additional toasted coconut, if desired

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine flour, baking soda and salt, stirring with a whisk. Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat sugar and butter at medium speed until well blended. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Add mashed banana, sour cream, milk and vanilla. Beat until blended. Add flour mixture; beat at low speed, just until moist. Stir in 1/2 cup coconut.

Spray cooking spray on one 9- by 5-inch loaf pan or three small loaf pans. Spoon batter into prepared pans. Top with another tablespoon of coconut, if desired.

Bake at 350 degrees. Bake large loaves for about 1 hour and small loaves for 25-30 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and place on wire rack. Cool in pan for 10 minutes, then remove from pan.

Mix icing ingredients. The original recipe just used lime juice and powdered sugar for a glaze, but I like a little butter in my icing. After I decorated the tops of the loaves by piping on the frosting, I sprinkled with toasted coconut.

If you want to use just the lime juice and powdered sugar, use 1 1/2 tablespoons of fresh lime juice and 1/2 cup powdered sugar. Put the glaze on top of warm loaves. If you prefer a frosting rather than a glaze, let the breads cool before adding the frosting and toasted coconut.

Note: In the original recipe, Ashley didn't toast her coconut and she just mixed it into the glaze. I'm sure it's good that way, too.

Today, I'm linked to Ashley's What's In Your Kitchen Wednesday? Click on the link to check out what other food bloggers have cooked up this week. 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Lessons from the Playground

Why walk when you can run? It seems to be our granddaughter, Kinley's, new philosophy on life. At nearly 16 months old, she meets life head-on and full speed ahead.

So far, she isn't telling us, "I do it." I'm sure that day is coming as the calendar pages turn and we move closer to her 2nd birthday. Her need for speed is not without casualties. Her poor nose got the brunt of a fall, and she was sporting quite a lovely scrape when we visited a couple weeks ago.

As we went to a couple of different parks during our visit, I kept thinking about how it was a metaphor for life. 
One slide was just the right size, Kinley could climb up the steps herself, and, with a steadying hand from Mommy for the first couple of trips down the yellow ribbon of plastic, she could pretty much do it herself.

Later in the day, Randy & I took Kinley to a park just a few blocks away from their house.  At that play apparatus, there were slides for toddlers and ones for a little bit bigger kids.

It was kind of like the Goldilocks story. The little one was just right. (photo below, upper left). Just like at the first slide, she could maneuver the steps with just a little help. However, we misjudged the middle-sized one, and Grandma should have been more worried about catching Kinley at the bottom than taking a photo (upper right hand side photo.) But, with a quick hug and a dust off, Kinley was ready for more.
For the biggest slide, Kinley needed a partner, and Grandpa was a willing volunteer. Sometimes in life, we need a little help (or a lot of help). We need that person pulling our wagon or guiding us over the bumps and turns of a situation that's bigger than we are.
We need someone to steady us. Or push us. Or pull us. Or just be happy to be with us.
We need people to help us dream dreams that are bigger and more numerous than bubbles on a springtime day. And when the bubbles and dreams disappear in a flash, they'll be there to help us conjure up some more, gently pushing us along just like a steady breath behind a bubble ring.
I'm thankful for the people in my life who are those kinds of helpers - family and friends who come together in the little ways - and when I need a whole lot of help. I am blessed!

So encourage each other and build each other up,
just as you are already doing. 
1 Thessalonians 5:11

Monday, April 22, 2013

A la Thomas Kinkade

The setting sun gave a Thomas Kinkade-glow to the buildings at the Zenith branch of the Kanza Co-op. I'll let the sun and twilight sky do my painting for me. A Kansas sunset can put the exclamation point on any kind of day.
Our prayers lay the track down
 on which God’s power can come.
—Watchman Nee
From my email: Daily Scripture and Reflection Newsletter

A sunrise pierces the pasture fence as we begin another week and offers a glow of hope that this week will be less about explosions and terrorism. 
Hope is the sun 
which, as we journey towards it, 
casts the shadow of our burden behind us.
Samuel Smiles

Friday, April 19, 2013

Mud-luscious and Puddle-Wonderful

"The world is mud-luscious and puddle-wonderful.”
e.e. cummings

Nobody in farm country is going to disagree with author and poet e.e. cummings, especially after two summers of drought.

It's been a long time since our old granary was reflected in a mud puddle in our backyard. But, after 1.5 inches of rain in the past couple of days, we don't mind dodging mud puddles on the way to the barn or wearing our ratty tennis shoes in the mud.

It's been awhile since there was rain water in a drainage ditch off one of our wheat fields. Last December, the county cleaned out the culverts along the road. At that time, there was nary a raincloud in the vicinity. But the culverts came in handy this week.
The fields and the pastures have been getting a much-needed drink of water - enough that there were even a few puddles standing in fields.
Droplets of water clung to flowering backyard shrubs. I figured I'd better get a photo of the blooms before nightfall last evening, since a freeze was in the forecast.
This morning, the thermometer was hovering around 25 degrees. We'll see how the wheat fares in this second round of untimely freezing temperatures. The gardening centers say that April 15 is the "frost free" date for this part of the state. It's clear Mother Nature didn't consult the Old Farmers' Almanac this spring.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Telling the Story ... The Whole Story

If you're telling the story,
 you have to tell the whole story. 

It may sound like something Paul Harvey would say. But, instead, it's wisdom from my favorite farmer philosopher (aka, my husband).

Last spring, when a "controlled" CRP burn ended up being far from controlled, my first inclination was to keep it to myself. However, it's not like people in Stafford weren't going to find out about it. After all, we had volunteer fire crews from Sterling, Alden, Raymond and the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge arrive to help us. News like that gets around faster in a small community than ... well, faster than a controlled burn can become uncontrolled.

But, Randy wanted me to share the story on Kim's County Line. His theory:
If you're telling the story,
 you have to tell the whole story.
This week, I had my own fire. My first inclination is to hide it. I hate making mistakes. I probably hate revealing my mistakes even more. (It's really silly, since most of my shortcomings are front and center anyway.)

This is about more than kitchen disasters. As a life-long perfectionist and overachiever, I like giving the impression that I have my life together, even if I sometimes feel like it's an illusion that rivals any of my husband's collection of magic tricks.  I want to smother "bad news" as assuredly as that box of baking soda smothered the flames dancing in the bottom of my oven Monday night. But Randy's matter-of-fact admission of less-than-stellar outcomes kept burning in my mind as high as those orange-yellow flames. So, here it is ... the whole story.

I was co-hostess this week for PEO, which means I was responsible for providing the dessert. (If you know women's meetings, you know that's an important job.) I have a reputation for being a good cook. (My birth family knows that my true misadventures in the kitchen date all the way back to Meatloaf Mush when I was 13 or so, but that's a story for another time. Or ask my brother about it.)

Anyway, in order to uphold that reputation for baking delicious and beautiful treats, I was making cheesecake in springform pans instead of regular 13- by 9-inch pans. I had two springform pans filled with butter-laden graham cracker crusts and topped with cheesecake made from five whole packages of cream cheese, fresh lemon zest, sugar and other goodies. 

Wanting to "look good" got me into trouble when the butter started dripping into the bottom of the oven. I added a layer of foil so that it wouldn't make such a mess. But, when the timer rang for the first check, I discovered flames. Yes, real flames, not just an acrid smell and burned-on residue. (Thank you, Lord, for that compulsion to check and double-check things and for the timing of that oven buzzer.)

I also discovered that I didn't have the fire extinguisher I thought I had above the stove. (If I used it for another cooking mishap, I have successfully developed amnesia about it.)

Thankfully, the half-full box of baking soda I had was enough to put out all but a little remnant of the flames.

I stay fairly level-headed in a crisis. I calmly pulled my cheesecakes from the oven. After the fire was out, I salvaged the ingredients. I ended up separating the cheesecake filling from the crust and baking the cheesecake in a sheetcake pan (along with a little extra that Randy got to taste test to make sure it didn't taste more like scorched earth than cheesecake.) To serve it Tuesday night, I fancied it up with fresh fruit and a dollop of whipped cream on top. It got rave reviews.

I could have not told anyone (and I didn't at PEO). And believe me, that's my first inclination. I want to believe I'm not telling the story now because Randy already told the tale to our friend at the local cafe and to the lumberyard proprietor when he ordered fire extinguishers for the house.

I hope it's because I truly want to be real. This space shouldn't be just about posting fun trips to the zoo with our granddaughter or farming tales or yummy treats accomplished without an oven fire.

This is the same CRP field as at the top photo a couple of months after the fire.
Making mistakes is not a crime. (Repeat that to myself 10 times.) Experiencing unexpected consequences is part of life. A lesson in humility helps refine me. If I hadn't wanted to impress with a lovely springform pan dessert, I wouldn't be stuck revealing my failure.

I should be just as quick to share the fire (or any other shortcoming) because it's how people can truly know me - not just the image of me I'd like to portray.
I need to be more like a wildflower after a prairie fire.  We all have "fires" in our lives. We have times where the landscape feels as desolate as that blackened earth or the scorch in the bottom of my oven. We are lonely. We face health problems. We're concerned about our kids or our jobs or our community or a drought. The fires are different for all of us. But we all have them. We can get hot under the collar. We can feel like we're walking through flames.We can feel that all-consuming heat and wind surround us in a way where it's even hard to breathe.

But if we don't admit it to anyone else, it just might consume us:
If you're telling the story,
 you have to tell the whole story.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Rolo Cheesecake Bars

One of my friends said my Rolo Cheesecake Bars didn't look like a "Kim creation." I'm not sure what that means. (Maybe I should have added the caramel drizzle in the original recipe instead of taking the easier way out.) She was drifting from round table to round table, searching for the person who brought the bars to our church's Youth Sunday potluck, and I was glad to claim them. 

I've made them a couple of times before, and both times, I've missed getting a decent photo of them. This time, I tried again. I'm not sure a photo does these buttery-crusted bars justice. You kind of have to give them a taste test. They have a layer of caramel-flavored cream cheese which is amped up with bite-size Rolo candies. Then, just for good measure, the bars are topped with a decadent chocolate layer.
The hardest part of serving these bars is getting them cut. The Rolos - while delicious - are difficult to cut through. (Maybe if I wasn't such a rebel and refused to put the layer of foil in the bottom of the baking pan I would have had better luck. There's your tip for the day.) 

I cut the bars fairly small for serving at the potluck, where everyone wants to try just a little bit of several different things. They could be cut into bigger pieces and served as a dessert for a PEO group or ladies' luncheon (not that the guys wouldn't like them, too)! If served in a dessert serving, you could make them even prettier with a piped rosette of whipped cream and drizzled with chocolate or caramel sauce (or both, if you're feeling especially adventurous), and topped with an extra mini Rolo, Big or small - enjoy!
 Rolo Cheesecake Bars
3 cups of graham cracker crumbs 
1 cup sugar 
1 cup butter

2 8-oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened 
2/3 cup caramel sauce 
2/3 cup sugar 
2 eggs
1 tbsp. vanilla extract 
1 package mini unwrapped Rolos (found in candy aisle)

Chocolate Layer 
6 oz. semi-sweet chocolate 
1 tbsp. corn syrup 
1/2 cup butter 

Additional caramel sauce (if desired)

Cover inside of 13- by 9-inch pan with enough foil for a 1-inch overhang on all sides. Cover foil with baking spray. (I didn't do this step any of the times I've made this recipe. It probably would make cutting them easier - a word to the wise.) Heat oven to 350 degrees.

To make crust 

Place graham cracker crumbs and sugar in a bowl and toss to combine. Add in melted butter and mix to combine. Press mixture onto bottom of prepared pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 7-10 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside to cool while making cheesecake portion.

To make cheesecake  

Place cheesecake, caramel sauce, sugar, egg and vanilla extract in a bowl and beat until fully combined and smooth. Add in Rolos and fold to combine. Pour mixture over crust and bake for 30-35 minutes at 350 degrees. Remove from oven and set aside to cool. 

To make chocolate layer 

Combine chocolate, corn syrup and butter in a microwave-safe bowl. Heat in the microwave at 50 percent power, stirring after each minute, taking care not to burn. Continue until the chocolate is melted. Pour chocolate over baked cheesecake after it's cooled. Chill until chocolate is set. Cut with a big knife.

The original recipe used additional caramel for the top. You can check out how they look with that toothpick detail at Bakers Royale, where I got one version of this recipe. I didn't do this step. However, if you'd like to make them even more decadent, here's how:

Place caramel in a plastic bag and pipe straight lines horizontally across. Use a toothpick and starting at the top drag the toothpick vertically through horizontal lines. Draw second line with toothpick start in the opposite direction (from the bottom of the pan) and drag it vertically from bottom to top of pan. Continue to alternate starting points for the vertical lines drawn with the toothpick.

This weekend, I ended up seeing a different recipe on Facebook for a 13- by 9-inch pan and used a variation of both recipes to come up with the final product.

In the Facebook version, the cook added a chocolate drizzle and half a Rolo on top of each serving. I didn't do either of those things, but it would definitely dress them up if you wanted to cut the cheesecake bars into dessert-sized servings. 

I'm linked today to Ashley's What's In Your Kitchen Wednesday? Head on over and check out all the yummy food shared by food bloggers from across the country!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Scout's Honor

4-H is our youth program of choice, but yesterday, we were Scouts for the afternoon.

One of Scouting's well-known mottos is "Be Prepared." We put that trademark phrase to the test as we scouted wheat fields for damage after last week's hail/sleet/ice/rain storm.

Our county Extension agent has been sending emails since the storm last week. Armed with those photographic images and information he has sent from agronomists at K-State Research and Extension, we visited several different fields.

It's been interesting to see how different fields have looked from the road. With just a dirt road separating fields, our wheat field has looked markedly greener than a neighbor's just to the south. Did it have to do with variety? Was it a difference in the maturity of the crop? Is it just surface freeze damage that caused the two fields to look so different?
There definitely is freeze damage to the leaves. However, that's not a critical factor in whether or not the plant will produce a crop.
We checked wheat that had been planted early in our two-week planting window, as well as wheat that had been planted near the end. We have two varieties of wheat this year - Everest and Stout - and Randy checked for damage with all those variables.
First, he pulled wheat plants up by the roots. Then he took stalks and found the growing point, or joint. To find the joint, he ran his fingers up the stem and found a "bump." Highly scientific, I know!
We took the wheat stalks back to the pickup, where he performed a bit of surgery with a scalpel, cutting along the stem to uncover the head. 
Inside, he found that the heads - or growing points - seemed green. He also noted that it wasn't "mushy" below the joint (more highly technical terminology), which might have indicated freeze damage.
In the photo below, you can even see the head, the place which will produce the grain for Harvest 2013.  The main flag leaf hadn't yet emerged before the ice storm. The joints we found were only 1 to 2 inches above the ground, which helped protect them from the freezing temperatures.  
He's fairly optimistic that the damage isn't extensive to the crop. If this same hail/ice storm had happened at this time last year, the results would have been much worse because the crop matured so early.

Freezing temperatures are again forecast later this week, so we'll see how weather continues to impact this crop. As farmers always say, it's a long time to harvest. But it does seem to be good news for now.

While we were out, we also scouted the alfalfa fields, which look even worse from the road. There is freeze damage to the alfalfa. Randy says the freeze-damaged alfalfa won't produce hay, but the plants will start growing again.
Surveying the alfalfa fields
I debated a long time about whether or not to post today. In light of the tragic, senseless bombing at the Boston Marathon yesterday, it doesn't seem like I should celebrate that our wheat crop seems to have survived its own calamity - at least for the moment.

But then I saw something posted on a young friend's Facebook page. And I decided that what the world needs is good news in the face of tragedy. She shared these words from Comedian Patton Oswalt.  (Yes, I realize a minister might be a better source for comfort in times of trouble. But I really liked what he had to say):
I remember, when 9/11 went down, my reaction was, "Well, I've had it with humanity." But I was wrong. I don't know what's going to be revealed to be behind all of this mayhem. One human insect or a poisonous mass of broken sociopaths.

But here's what I DO know. If it's one person or a HUNDRED people, that number is not even a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a percent of the population on this planet. You watch the videos of the carnage, and there are people running TOWARDS the destruction to help out. ... The vast majority stands against that darkness and, like white blood cells attacking a virus, they dilute and weaken and eventually wash away the evil doers and, more importantly, the damage they wreak. This is beyond religion or creed or nation. ... So when you spot violence, or bigotry, or intolerance or fear or just garden-variety misogyny, hatred or ignorance, just look it in the eye and think, "The good outnumber you, and we always will."
Patton Oswalt